My Media Snapshot
I’m keeping lots of notes while traveling. But I’m trying not to write about travel in the blog (i.e., what you’re reading now). So what to write about? It’s hard to pick, since when you’re traveling, travel is so much of your life.
I’m thinking I’ll write about the other stuff I’ve been doing—I guess really the other media I’ve been consuming.
Vagrant Holiday has brought me great entertainment the last couple weeks. A guy travels to different places (usually new countries) and camps out, often inside or just outside of cities. Turns out he’s even from Seattle (just like Andrew from All Gas No Brakes / Channel 5). I don’t see eye-to-eye with him about much of travel (which I really notice when he goes places I’ve been), but there’s a certain watch the world burn attitude about him that’s, perhaps strangely, hard not to like. My favorites were the episodes where he goes to Japan and Puget Sound’s Forbidden Island.
Action Button “reviews” of video games. I write “reviews” in quotes because, while each video ostensibly covers a game, the game really serves as the focus point of a discussion that branches out and includes a hefty dose of his own life anecdotes. I had never realized that the same guy was also behind Videoball and the Slow Translation of FF7 until I saw him reference both in these Action Button reviews.
As with Vagrant Holiday, I find myself disagreeing with him at least as much as I agree. And unlike Vagrant Holiday, the Action Button reviews can be difficult to watch—they’re dense, excessively verbose, hard to follow, somewhat condescending, and a little uncomfortable. But nevertheless, it’s some of the most interesting YouTube content I’ve ever seen, and the force of the creator, the sheer volume and magnitude and performed sincerity of opinions and claims… it’s really something else. Worth checking out if you’re into video games.
Looking for something new to play, I pulled a game off my backlog called CrossCode. Modern 2D pixel-art action RPG. Charming, it shows its indie seams—i.e., can be obtuse and frustrating at times. But you can feel the coziness and passion from the developers. I end up playing on plane rides and then again for a few days after.
I’m also slowing chewing my way through Last Call BBS. This one is setup like a retro fictional Windows ~98-esque box with a handful of retro-aesthetic puzzle games. They’re good—well designed, intricate, and really make you think. (They also stylistically omit instruction manuals, or have instructions in Japanese, which lends the experience kind of a Tunic-like “figure out the game” nostalgia.)
I end up having to think so hard to play the game that I can’t play it too much. An hour or two here or there and then I set it down for a week or two. But, unlike almost any other game, I do seem to regularly pick it back up. My favorite game in it so far might be 20th Century Food Court. A few of these are programming puzzles in disguise!
I still look forward to the weekly main episode of The Besties, the only podcast I listen to. The four polygon co-founders (I think?), two of whom (the McElroy brothers) have have moved on to full-time podcasting, talk video games. It has ruined me for every other games podcast. I say this empirically—I’ve tried listening to a handful of other games podcasts and absolutely can’t stand them. They (the other podcasts) all seem to be like two to four hours, and a lot of the time is the hosts laughing at each other’s bad jokes and just having a nice old time together. Though I’ve watched enough Twitch to get the appeal, for some reason, that format just totally doesn’t work for me. The Besties is, instead, ~45 minutes of high-focus content, split about 50/50 on a main new game and other stuff they’ve been playing. They cut themselves off at what feels like about ~75% of the way through each discussion, giving yet more evidence to my theory that keeping someone wanting more is a universal technique that spans fields and mediums. (OK it’s also probably a famous quote.)
Aside from entertainment, it’s a good way for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the game world while spending very little time (or money) playing them myself. Also good to pick up recommendations for what to play, especially the B segment or occasional indie roundup episodes.
I also finally got How Minds Change after waiting months in the library queue, read one chapter, and promptly stopped. Now only a bit of time till it’s due back. Ugh. I have faith it will be good, but after hearing many golden nuggets when McRaney appeared on the Deconstructing Yourself Podcast, I worry the longer narrative will be a slower and drier path. I hope I pick it back up in time.
That’s most of it, and that’s certainly all from me for now. Ciao, or tạm biệt, from Đà Lạt, Vietnam.